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Trend-setting logistic processes – Full automatic commissioning with Witron and VIPA

The Migros association located in Luzern is one of the largest group of companies in Switzerland. More than 40 companies are part of this group, amongst them there are 10 retailer cooperatives which are represented by more than 600 branches in different sizes. For the fast and flexible supply of these markets with goods, the most modern and largest distribution center Suhr AG in Europa was put in operation.

Huge logistical demands

It is not an easy task to supply more than 600 branches in Switzerland with dry goods from a single logistic center within between 24 to 48 hours. Keeping large home stocks are out. Most consumers spontaneously buy whatever they have an appetite for. Shelf gaps are now no longer tolerated. In addition there are fluctuations in demand due to weather, advertising and social trends. For retailers, this means not allowing large warehouse stock to build up but to ensure their branches maintain a continuous, individual, fast and needs-based supply. The Migros distribution center in the Swiss town of Suhr readjusted their logistic processes concerning service, ergonomics, flexibility and sustainability to cover these demands.

The magic word is OPM

To optimally align logistic processes to future requirements, Migros decided for the implementation of forward-looking logistics system OPM (Order Picking Machinery). As a professional partner the logistic experts from Witron Logistik + Informatik GmbH were assigned to do the entire planning and implementation of all material flow, IT, control and mechanical components.
In order not to affect delivery processes the change had to be done during operation - because store delivery should not to be affected. The centerpiece of the full automatic warehouse and commissioning system OPM (order picking machinery) is the Case Order Machine (COM) that stacks completely different trading units - such as type, weight, size, container and plastic bottle packaging units - store-specific and packed tightly on order pallets.
Full automatic process from goods receipt to goods issue
Instead of gripping, the COMs push the articles exactly to the position on the order pallet that is calculated by the system. The entire procedure is monitored by sensors to enable high availability. Because Migros commissioned a large number of order pallets with beverages and PET bottles (between 20% and 30%) an efficient processing in the beverage area was an important decision criterion for the implementation of OPM. Simple, practical processes also meet the high quality standards of Migros.

Award-winning logistic solution from Witron with VIPA SPEED7 controllers

The Witron OPM solution which won the innovation award for logistic from the VDI society FML in 2005 is characterized by its enormously high economy, high quality and quantity of commissioning compared to usual commissioning processes. All processes within the entire supply chain are optimized by OPM. To run all processes fast and reliably Witron deploys the controllers of VIPA for the COM system at Migros in Switzerland.
Forty VIPA CPUs 317SN/NET are used in the Migros distribution center and ensure optimum processes. The memory areas of the SPEED CPUs are considerably larger compared with CPUs from the same performance class of other producers and can be flexibly adapted to required demands. A further advantage is that VIPA controllers are programmed and put into operation by the familiar and already established STEP7 software from Siemens, so that special training courses are not necessary for the deployment of VIPA components. The backplane bus of the SPEED7 CPU is particularly powerful and reduces the downtimes in the closed-loop control circuits that are led via the controller and the fieldbus. The high processing speed allows the operation of a large number of controlled axes in a single controller. This high processing speed allows the higher machine clock cycles which are required. Overall, an improvement by a factor of 10 could be achieved.
Besides the standard backplane bus the VIPA CPU has an optional SPEED bus for expansion with high speed signal modules and communication processors. Here two modules are deployed which have been especially developed for this purpose by Witron. Each is equipped with two masters on which up to 512 slaves can be coupled meaning that 112 double Interbus masters can be implemented. In addition to Interbus, PROFIBUS and Ethernet are also used for the communication – and all these from a single source.

Best experiences in the daily operation

Meanwhile, the new system has been running in Migros distribution Suhr since April 2011 to the complete satisfaction of all parties. The supply chain is considerably more stable with regard to influences caused by the weather or the seasons.  All processes are more transparent and the available warehouse space is now better utilized. Also with regard to the economics of tour planning right up to ergonomics when unpacking the goods in the store, the new system was able to achieve significant improvements.